When the cold takes hold this winter, it's not just us humans that suffer the effects – our pets feel it too. Vet charity PDSA is encouraging pet owners to take the easy steps needed to keep pets warm and safe.

Despite their warm coats, pets are not always immune to the effects of frost and low temperatures. Old, very young or thin-coated pets may be more at risk of getting too cold, but any pet can suffer frost bite or develop potentially fatal hypothermia if they are exposed to the cold for too long.

PDSA Vet, Olivia Anderson-Nathan, says: "Taking simple precautions can ensure pets are kept safe and healthy over the winter months."

Olivia has provided her top tips on keeping pets warm:

• Make sure all pets always have access to a warm, dry area during cold weather.

• Take your dog on regular short walks rather than one long walk. If you can, walk them in the day light when it's a bit warmer and if they get wet while out walking, towel dry them when you get home

• Consider a well-fitting, non-restrictive waterproof coat when on walks if your dog is very young, old or have thin fur to help keep them warm

• Try and keep your cat indoors on dark, wintery nights, giving them toys to play with to keep them occupied. If they prefer to go outside, make sure they have access to a sheltered area for if the temperature plummets

• Never leave a pet unattended in a car, caravan or an unheated conservatory – the temperature can plummet, risking hypothermia

• Never leave pets unattended outside in very cold weather

• It's a little known fact that pets don't shiver from the cold unless they are really badly affected. If it's cold outside and you see your pet shivering, this could be a serious sign of hypothermia and you should bring them into the warmth straight away

• Ice and snow can be painful if it gets compacted and stuck between the pads of your pet's paws so try to keep the hair in between their pads trimmed and check their paws when they come back inside

• Move rabbits and guinea pigs to a warm and sheltered spot such as a shed or car-free garage, making sure they're protected from drafts. They should still have access to natural light, plenty of room and constant access to an outside run for exercise and stimulation

• Provide your small pets with additional bedding hay during cold spells and cover hutches and runs with a duvet or thick blanket to help keep the cold out. You'll need to make sure it's out of reach from your pet and can't be nibbled and that there's still a good air-flow

• Regularly check water bottles and water bowls haven't frozen in the cold weather

Check rabbits daily for signs of flystrike. Rabbits can still be at risk of this potentially deadly disease throughout the winter, so check their bottoms for fly eggs or maggots and keep their hutches clean and dry

A sign of a dangerously low temperature, also known as hypothermia, is shivering, though not all pets will show this sign and it can stop if their temperature falls even lower. Pets with hypothermia can also become confused and uncoordinated, very sleepy, have cold ears and feet, pale gums, and their heart rate and breathing may also slow dangerously in severe cases. If you think your pet is showing signs of hypothermia, contact your vet straight away.